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A new sequence of stunning images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft offers a unique insight into a Kuiper Belt object, nicknamed Ultima Thule - the world’s furthest ever explored. NASA guarantees that these will not be the last images of this star, in fact, many more are coming.


The newly released footage also contains important scientific information on the shape of Ultima Thule, which is becoming one of the main findings of the probe. "This is actually an incredible sequence of images recorded by a spacecraft exploring a small world six billion kilometers from Earth," said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute.


The first approximate images of Ultima Thule - with its two distinct and apparently spherical segments - were making people call it "snowman." However, these recent analyzes have changed that view, revealing that both parts are not spherical, but rather slightly flat, actually reminiscent of a giant "pancake."

"It would be closer to reality to say that the shape of Ultima Thule is flatter, like a pancake. But even more important, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could be formed. We've never seen anything like it, "Stern said.


The images from this study were taken from a different angle from the previous photos of approximation to reveal complementary information about the shape of the object. The probe used a relatively long exposure time to increase the sensitivity level of the camera. And based on the background stars, observing which stars "blinked" as the object passed in front of them, the scientists outlined the shape of both segments.

"These new results clearly show that Ultima and Thule is much more flat than originally believed, and much flatter than expected," added Hal. Weaver, a scientist with the New Horizons project at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. "This will certainly motivate new theories of planetary formation at the beginning of the solar system," he concluded. [ NASA ]

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Ultima Thule

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